By Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis, Nick J. Napolitano
Anyone who's written for Aquaman has had to contend with the widespread perception that he's something of a joke. Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis tackle this in the most direct way possible. The first issue starts out well enough. Our newly revised hero demonstrates that his physical prowess is almost a match for the 1938 Superman by foiling a heist. He leaps over tall buildings, casually tosses around an armored truck, and absorbs machine-gun fire at point-blank range without flinching. Sadly, he doesn't attempt to outrun a bullet train. Still, the point has been made. "This ain't your daddy's Aquaman" is the message they seem to be conveying.
The story however grinds to a halt when he attempts to enjoy a meal at a seafood restaurant, only to be interrupted by an obnoxious blogger (yes, we're all like that) who wants to troll him in person. Aquaman tolerates him for as long as he can, before leaving in a huff. But at least he has his lovely wife Mera to tend to his wounded male ego. And the reader is pretty much told why Aquaman's much cooler than (s)he thinks. Yes, he eats fish. Get over it. No, he doesn't need to return to water to survive. Yes, he communicates telepathically with sea life, but don't refer to it as "talk to fish" because fish don't actually understand human speech. It's about as subtle as a bag of hammers.
|C'mon Aquaman. Namor would have broken that guy's kneecaps and tossed him|
into the ocean for interrupting his meal.
Thank goodness the next issue gets back into the thick of things (albeit not as quickly as I'd like) when some carnivorous fish-people decide to feed on a seaside town. Aquaman and Mera intercede, over the objections of the police. When the fish-people attack again, the pair go through them like the Nisshin Maru carving up a pod of Minke whales. Lots of bloodshed ensues, as expected in a Geoff Johns comic. Look! he's a badass now. And the plot inches forward in issue three when Aquaman enlists the help of an old acquaintance of his father named Stephen Shin, who supposably tried to kill him at one point. Lots of hints about Aquaman's past are dropped, including an enigmatic statement about the trident he uses as a weapon.
New 52 Aquaman is something of a prick, which is justified in the series by the public's attitude toward him. Wouldn't you be too if you knew they kept laughing behind your back? The problem with the series' metatextual approach is that it sometimes puts advancing its own arguments over advancing the story itself. Telling the audience that the character is cool won't necessarily make them like him any better if the character hasn't yet been well developed. But whether by accident or design, the results are also rather comical. Instead of sulking about a world that hates and fears you, why not one that refuses to take you seriously? Plenty of ten-year-olds know how that feels. That almost everyone treats Aquaman with slight condescension works as a foil to his own truculence. And it helps make him look less like an insufferable jerkface, unlike some other so-called heroes (Yeah, I'm looking at you Green Arrow).
|Retaliating like monsters is the Americ... I mean, Atlantean way.|
So Aquaman is misunderestimated. But wouldn't it have been possible for him to have started out slightly more mature and self-aware, gradually learning to adopt a more relaxed and self-depreciating attitude as the story progresses? Oh wait, this is a superhero comic book. Never mind.